India’s Supreme Court ruled Friday that two Italian marines accused of murdering Indian fishermen while guarding an oil tanker could return home to cast their votes in upcoming national elections.
The marines are suspected of shooting dead two fishermen off India’s southwestern coast near the port city of Kochi in February 2012, when a fishing boat came close to the Italian oil tanker they were guarding.
The marines’ lawyer, Harish Salve, told the court that the men needed to go home for four weeks in order to cast their votes sinceItaly¬†did not allow postal ballots.
Salve said, “my clients give an undertaking that they will keep Indian police informed of their whereabouts while in Italy”.
“The Italian government takes full responsibility to ensure their return to India,” he added.
The case, which was transferred last month from a local court in the southern Indian state of Kerala to a “special court” in¬†New Delhi, has caused diplomatic tensions between India and Italy.
Rome has argued that the Indian courts have no jurisdiction to try the marines because the incident took place in international waters.
The marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, were granted special permission to return home to Italy for Christmas but have since returned to India.
Armed guards are increasingly deployed on cargo ships and tankers in the Indian Ocean to tackle the threat posed by Somali pirates, who often hold ships and crews hostage for months demanding multi-million-dollar ransoms.